Topic legal

The patent wars rage on: Nvidia sues Qualcomm and Samsung over their patent of 'the gpu'

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in legal on (#2S41)
story imageNvidia has sued two major technology corporations, Qualcomm and Samsung, claiming it has a 13 year old patent over the GPU itself. John Hruska of Extreme Tech comments.
There are two reasons why this case sticks out. First, Nvidia, is suing Samsung — a company which does not build its own graphics IP and merely licenses the work of others, including Qualcomm’s Adreno, ARM’s Mali, and Imagination Technologies’ PowerVR. Nvidia’s blog post claims that Samsung dismissed these issues as a “supplier problem,” ignoring the fact that from Samsung’s perspective, that’s exactly what this is.

Second, while it’s true that this is Nvidia’s first patent lawsuit against another company, many of the patents the company is asserting go right back to the beginning of the GPU era. Nvidia is accusing Samsung and Qualcomm, for example, of violating its patent on transform and lighting engines — a patent that dates back to the early days of 3D accelerated games, some 13 years ago. Most of the other patents are nearly as old, and cover equally fundamental aspects of modern GPU programming.

Telstra caught disclosing browser data without a warrant

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Anonymous Coward
in legal on (#40D)
story imageRecently the Australian government started down the path of changing laws to collect metadata for two years. In response to claims that this type of data retention would be abused Prime Minister Tony Abbott's office stated "The government requires a lawful warrant to look at Australians' web-browsing history. This is not metadata, it’s content". Now, just two weeks later, Telstra has been caught releasing this type of data without a warrant. Critics of data retention have stated that this would happen eventually, that data would be released without a warrant. Now they can say "it is happening now".

Judge rejects Apple/Google/Intel/etc settlement; says parties need to pay more

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in legal on (#3TZ)
In a victory for engineers and techies everywhere, Judge Lucy Koh has rejected the settlement proposed in the High-Tech Employee Antitrust Litigation case. The settlement was originally drawn up by the plaintiffs' legal counsel, Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein, a process which ordinarily would involve the participation and approval of the plaintiffs. Because the suit was class-action, however, the law firm allegedly moved forward on behalf of the plaintiffs without the approval of the class representatives, and informed them only after a settlement agreement had already been reached.

One of the plaintiffs, Michael Devine, asked the judge to reject the settlement based on the inequality of the proposed value to the amount of damage done, and it appears that Judge Koh agreed. Apple, Google, Intel, et al, and the plaintiffs' attorneys, will be required to either submit a higher offer or take the case to trial, a possibility that might lead to billions in damages considering the amount of evidence the plaintiffs have compiled.

Even if it does not go to trial, however, the judge's decision is a heads-up to businesses that this sort of behavior has consequences.

Australia's Biggest Public Service Department to be Privatized

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Anonymous Coward
in legal on (#3SD)
The Australian government has started the process for outsourcing the Department of Human Services payments systems. This includes Medicare Australia and the Australian Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme which together with Centrelink make up the largest department in the Australian public service. The Department of Health, who hold the DHS purse strings, are seeking engagement from private vendors for management of the claims and payment services the Department of Human Services delivers. This move comes as a shock as it is just three years after these government departments were merged together to form the DHS.

Further, DHS employees only found out about this happening when it was reported in the local paper. The DHS is currently bargaining for renewal of the employee enterprise agreement for which has stalled.

Fault Overrides Emotion-Driven Punishment

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in legal on (#3S8)
story imageResearchers have found (Abstract) that the more gruesome a description of a crime is, the more the person hearing the description thinks the perpetrator should be punished. However, if the act was unintentional, the description did not change the severity judged as fair.
When the responses were analyzed, the researchers found that the manner in which the harmful consequences of an action are described significantly influences the level of punishment that people consider appropriate: When the harm was described in a graphic or lurid fashion then people set the punishment level higher than when it was described matter-of-factly. However, this higher punishment level only applied when the participants considered the resulting harm to be intentional. When they considered it to be unintentional, the way it was described didn't have any effect.

Aereo is still in the fight

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in legal on (#3QX)
story imageSince the Aereo decision caused Aereo to shutter its service, we haven't heard much. It appears now that things are still happening with the company.

Apparently Aereo is asking that, since the Supreme Court declared it a "cable company", it should immediately receive cable company status, which the FCC has been previously reluctant to grant to internet-only companies. Deadline Hollywood has a fairly informative writeup. This would allow it to enter into negotiations for content with broadcasters, who, at least according to the law, would be required to "negotiate in good faith". Considering that many of them are not Aereo fans and some major content providers have threatened to pull their content if Aereo wins, Aereo might have an uphill battle despite that "good faith negotiation" requirement - if the FCC even permits the status change.

If this last-ditch effort fails, there are still alternatives to cable, but none of them are as simple and as cheap, and most lack the extra features of Aereo. Good luck, Aereo.

Emails from Pixar's Catmull Revealed in Silicon Valley Anti-Poaching Lawsuit

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Anonymous Coward
in legal on (#3QJ)
story imageEd Catmull is legendary in the fields of computer graphics and animation; he was an important researcher in 3D computer graphics in the '70s, became head of Lucasfilm's Pixar computer animation division, and has essentially remained in that role ever since through the sale/spinoff of Pixar to Steve Jobs in 1986, its years as an independent producer of feature-length animated films, and its acquisition by Disney in 2006. He's just published a book on creative leadership.

While Catmull has lots of fans in Silicon Valley and beyond, he's emerging as a key figure in an antitrust lawsuit by employees over the 'gentlemen's agreement' by a handful of companies including Apple, Google, Intel, and Pixar, to avoid recruiting each other's employees, thus avoiding a bidding war on talent. Emails recovered during the discovery phase of an ongoing class action lawsuit reveal that Catmull was a zealous enforcer of the pact among digital animation studios, including Pixar, Lucasfilm/ILM, and Dreamworks; at one point, after Pixar was acquired by Disney, he even wrote an email persuading Disney Studios Chairman Dick Cook, to put the arm on a sister Disney studio that was poaching Dreamwork employees:
I know that Zemeckis’ company will not target Pixar, however, by offering higher salaries to grow at the rate they desire, people will hear about it and leave. We have avoided wars up in Norther[n] California because all of the companies up here – Pixar, ILM [Lucasfilm], Dreamworks, and couple of smaller places [sic]- have conscientiously avoided raiding each other.
The Catmull emails also reveal that Sony was recruited to join the pact/cartel, but Sony refused to play ball. This seemed to raise Catmull's testosterone level a bit. Catmull to Cook again:
Just this last week, we did have a recruiter working for ILM [Lucasfilm] approach some of our people. We called to complain and the recruiter immediately stopped. This kind of relationship has helped keep the peace in the Bay Area and it is important that we continue to use restraint.

Now that Sony has announced their intentions with regard to selling part of their special effects business, and given Sony’s extremely poor behavior in its recruiting practices, I would feel very good about aggressively going after Sony people.
In the deposition, Catmull said he never followed through with the threat to go after Sony's employees.

(I saw this story on OSNews, which drew a fair number of comments).

Distrowatch.com comes back as a .org

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in legal on (#3Q5)
story imageNot sure what happened, and Distrowatch king Ladislav Bodnar isn't saying, but a couple of days ago, Distrowatch.com went off line. A day or two later it was back, but as distrowatch.org.

Ladislav writes:
As many of you noticed, the distrowatch.com domain name was suspended by the domain's registrar, Doteasy, last Sunday. I don't want to go into details about what exactly happened as it's a long and boring story. Suffice to say that I feel grossly aggrieved by the series of greedy and even malicious actions taken by Doteasy and as soon as I get this sorted out, I will be looking into transferring the distrowatch.com domain name to another registrar. If any of you have a recommendation for a good registrar (preferably with customer support personnel that is competent), please let me know in the comments section below or send me an email.
Glad to see it was just bureaucracy, and not Distrowatch going off line. I love that site and visit it on a pretty regular basis, even though I'm pretty loyal to just two or three distros and almost never try out those exotic, little-known ones.

Supreme Court limits cell phone searches

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in legal on (#3PH)
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled unanimously today that law enforcement officers need to get a search warrant before they can search through the contents of someone's smartphone.
The term ‘cell phone’ is itself misleading shorthand; many of these devices are in fact minicomputers that also happen to have the capacity to be used as a telephone,” Roberts wrote. “They could just as easily be called cameras, video players, rolodexes, calendars, tape recorders, libraries, diaries, albums, televisions, maps, or newspapers.

Appeals Court Halts Copyright Abuse Case

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in legal on (#3N2)
story imageA federal appeals court yesterday held that copyright holders may not abuse the legal process to obtain the identities of thousands of Internet users.
The plaintiff in this case, AF Holdings, sought the identities of more than 1,000 Internet users that it claims are linked to the illegal downloading of a copyrighted pornographic film.
The EFF , American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of the Nation's Capital, Public Citizen, and Public Knowledge all came to the defense and won a crushing blow against the copyright holder.
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